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Nutanix’s Christian Alvarez Wins 2021 Channel Madness Crown

Nutanix’s Christian Alvarez was the last channel executive standing, winning the 2021 CRN Channel Madness Tournament of Chiefs.

Nutanix channel chief Christian Alvarez was crowned the winner of the 2021 CRN Channel Madness Tournament of Chiefs Thursday in his inaugural attempt.

To earn the crown, Alvarez won out against Check Point Software Technologies channel chief Frank Rauch in the final round, garnering 57 percent of the vote to Rauch’s 43 percent.

The seventh annual Channel Madness tournament kicked off on March 18. Thirty-two of the industry’s top channel chiefs vied for votes from CRN readers across five rounds of the single-elimination tournament, ending with Alvarez being crowned the winner.

Alvarez, senior vice president of worldwide channels, joined Nutanix less than two years ago but has already had a significant impact by launching Nutanix’s new global Elevate Partner Program. He also played a critical role in helping channel partners transform their sales motion and shift go-to-market strategies during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Alvarez’s past experience as a solution provider helps shape his channel ethos, he said.

“Look, I was a reseller for 11 years of my career. I know exactly what our partners go through day in and day out,” said Alvarez. “What I brought to Nutanix and our partners around ease of business and improving profitability and simplicity underscores that I’m committed to our partners. I’m 100 percent committed to making our partners successful, and so is Nutanix.”

Worth Davis, president at Houston-based Computex Technology Solutions, a top Nutanix partner, said Alvarez has “energized Nutanix’s channel-oriented” organization.

“He brought in a lot of good people and successfully dealt with a growing channel organization. I think the world of Nutanix and the work he’s done—we’ve had some very engaging meetings with him,” said Davis. “My wish is that all the vendor partnerships we have were as good in the channel, in both protecting the channel and energizing the channel. I wish everybody was like that. I’m happy Alvarez won the Madness [tournament].”

During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Davis said Computex needed help in adjusting its product and services sales strategy. Nutanix and Alvarez stepped up to the plate to help keep customers afloat and Computex’s business flowing as smoothly as possible, he said.

“Nutanix was being proactive in helping us make changes that were necessary. Really from a sales and programmatic standpoint, they were very flexible and engaging in helping us to adjust to our customer needs, and I think that was from their channel focus,” said Davis. “As far as getting licenses, dealing with demos, doing setups and migrations—all the blocking and tackling that goes on with selling these types of technologies—Nutanix was there with us. Instead of telling us, ‘Well, in 2019 we set this program up and you can’t change it,’ they were there actively reacting to the changing sales situation that we were dealing with.”

A huge accomplishment in Alvarez’s short Nutanix career was launching the Elevate Partner Program. The program changed the way Nutanix interacts and incentivizes channel partners and includes more training and education. Elevate also includes a new partner portal, a simplified deal registration process and a new Americas Partner Support Center.

“We drove simplicity into our partner program that we’re really proud of. We did a lot of listening and talking to partners around the world, and that’s why Elevate was born. It’s all around profitability, predictability and simplicity for our partners,” said Alvarez. “We’re 100 percent committed to making our partners successful. Period.”

Alvarez said he was honored to compete in the Channel Madness Tournament alongside stalwarts such as Rauch.

“I’m humbled and honored to have competed among some of the best and the brightest of the channel. There’s a lot of legendary people that went through this competition, but it’s not about me; it’s about our partners and all the men and women at Nutanix in the channel,” said Alvarez. “This is really about them and I couldn’t be more pleased to have some fun along the way and compete against some great channel leaders in this tournament.”

For his part, Rauch has breathed new life into Check Point’s partner organization since starting as worldwide head of channel sales in January 2019, capitalizing on the deep solution provider relationships he cemented in previous roles at VMware and HP as well as his willingness to listen and learn to rejuvenate the platform security giant’s go-to-market engine.

He has enjoyed an outpouring of support during the competition, with calls and emails coming in from Singapore, Australia, Brazil and Check Point’s home country of Israel as former colleagues, fellow Drexel University alumni, members of Check Point’s channel and research and development teams, and even patrons at the Rauch-owned John & Peters music club in New Hope, Pa., cast ballots for their co-worker and friend.

“I don’t think I’ve ever really burned a bridge with a channel partner or a company that I’ve worked with,” Rauch said.

The relationship between Check Point and Hatfield, U.K.-based Computacenter, No. 44 on the 2020 CRN Solution Provider 500, was strained when Rauch joined, with the two organizations struggling to be successful together despite their considerable size, said Computacenter U.K. CTO Colin Williams. But in short order, Rauch was able to change the culture around the relationship to create a win-win dynamic.

Rauch worked to simplify messaging and programmatic coordination as well as accelerate engagement among executives, sales leaders and consulting leaders in both organizations, Williams said. He has also given Computacenter the flexibility needed to execute characteristics of the Check Point program in a way that’s most useful for the partner rather than forcing all partners to work off a single template.

“Nothing that would help with the evolution of our relationship was off the table,” Williams said. “We’re now seeing a level of success with Check Point that we had never seen before.”

Rauch chalks up his staying power in the channel to checking his ego at the door, educating himself on how the needs of partners differ, and keeping up with the changing economics for solution providers. Good channel leaders have influence internally, access to key executives externally, a back office that understands the operations, and analytics to make data-driven decisions rather than emotional ones, he said.

“I know a lot of people in this business in my role who like to talk,” Rauch said. “I try to listen a little bit more than I talk.”

Rauch understands not only the portfolio of technology he represents but is also knowledgeable about the value specific channel partners bring to the table, said Joe Koenig, president of Maryland Heights, Mo.-based World Wide Technology, No. 9 on the 2020 CRN Solution Provider 500. Rauch excels at soliciting feedback from strategic partners and understands that collaboration drives value and profitability on all sides, according to Koenig.

“Our whole team trusts Frank,” Koenig said. “I know he has that integrity that will drive all of the programs and that relationship.”

With the pandemic persisting for more than a year, Rauch said he’s needed to find new ways to motivate his channel workforce, influence key Check Point stakeholders without being in Tel Aviv, develop marketing campaigns that make sense in a virtual world, and put together flexible payment terms that recognize the extreme hardship partners and customers in certain verticals have been facing.

“Once you say, ‘I’ve got it,’ you lost it,” Rauch said. “I think you need to be a lifetime learner. You’re going to face a new challenge, whether it’s every day, every week or every month.”

At Herndon, Va.-based ePlus, No. 35 on the 2020 Solution Provider 500, Rauch’s arrival has brought greater awareness about the opportunities around Check Point across the go-to-market team, from accounts to sales to service, said President and CEO Mark Marron. Rauch excels at both big picture strategic planning as well as determining and executing on the tactical actions needed to accomplish that plan, according to Marron.

“He’s the ultimate professional,” Marron said. “He understands what’s happening in the market overall, but more importantly, he understands what’s important to partners. … I don’t believe there’s a bigger channel supporter out there than Frank.”

 

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